After committing to the New Zealand Warriors through until the end of 2021, Karl Lawton said it was an easy decision to remain in Auckland as he seeks to become the club's starting hooker on a full-time basis.
Having arrived at the Warriors at the start of 2018 with just 12 Telstra Premiership appearances to his name, Lawton has established himself as an important player in coach Stephen Kearney's 17 this year.
Named to start at hooker for the second game in a row, Lawton's form and the return of Nathaniel Roache from injury has seen veteran rake Issac Luke dropped from the Telstra Premiership squad altogether for Sunday's match against the Penrith Panthers at Mount Smart Stadium.
After being linked with a move to the UK Super League earlier this month, 23-year-old Lawton said remaining in New Zealand was always his preference.
"There wasn't much thought, this is a really good club, really good country," Lawton said.
"I love representing the club and it was a pretty easy decision for me.
"I fit like a glove [here] I think, all the boys are very welcoming [and] my partner Rosie feels very welcome."
Warriors v Panthers - Round 15
In six appearances this year Lawton averages 46 run metres per game along with 20 tackles.
Kearney said the new two-year deal was reward for the former Titan's work over the past year and a half, and believed his best football was still to come.
"When he first turned up at the footy club he was desperate for an opportunity," Kearney said.
"He got it sparingly to begin with, but the way he has applied himself… he's a real good teammate, a real good fella to have in your team and he brings a heap of energy.
"He's not naturally a dummy-half but has improved in that part of his game over the summer and I know he will only get better.
"He wants to make a crack of it and from a football sense I think his best footy is ahead of him."
The Warriors will be without Tohu Harris (foot) and Lachlan Burr (general soreness) for the clash with the Panthers, opening the door for Jazz Tevaga to start at lock after playing off the interchange in all of his 11 prior appearances this year.
Last year's Dally M Interchange Player of the Year, Tevaga told NRL.com he is eager to shake off his utility tag and establish himself as starting forward at the club.
"I am excited, I think this is a good opportunity for me to showcase that I'm not just a bench player, and I am looking to grab that jersey with both hands," Tevaga said.
"Every opportunity you get to start a game, that's the goal, to cement the spot.
"Tohu is out this week and so is Burry, both of them play big minutes usually, so with them out I will probably be playing decent minutes too.
"I am more than capable of doing it… when I go on [from the bench] I usually stay on, and I am usually trying to lift the energy.
"That part won't change with me starting the game either."